Tuesday, January 27, 2004

"Sell crazy someplace else. We're all stocked up here."

I watched a bit of the film As Good As It Gets when it aired on TV a couple of weeks ago; this is one of those movies I can sit down and watch the rest of, no matter what I'm doing when it happens to come on. And in watching the final scene, I realized that Melvin Udall's admission of love is one of the best-written such declarations I've yet come across, because it's so perfect in the way it springs from his very personality.

Melvin, you may recall, is a terribly selfish individual, and even as he grows in the course of the film he still views nearly everything in the prism of how it affects him. He is in love with Carol (Helen Hunt), one of the waitresses at the local restaurant where he eats breakfast every day, but in the course of the film he continually comes close to saying the perfect thing only to ride it right off the rails by turning selfish again.

So, when it comes time for him to "get with the program" and tell Carol how much she means to him, he doesn't go off on some weird tangent in which he objectifies her: he sounds like that's what he's doing, but then he routes the conversation right back to himself. This is what he says:

"Hey, I've got a great compliment for you....I'm the only one on the face of the earth who realizes that you're the greatest woman on earth. I'm the only one who appreciates how amazing you are in every single thing you do -- in every single thought you have... in how you are with Spencer -- Spence [Carol's son] ... in how you say what you mean and how you almost always mean something that's all about being straight and good... I think most people miss that about you and I watch wondering how they can watch you bring them food and clear their dishes and never get that they have just met the greatest woman alive... And the fact that I get it makes me feel great... about me!"

And hearing that last bit, Carol realizes that he's not making this up, because he can only describe his love for her in terms of himself. She knows that he loves her, but that he frames it in a way that is still about him. Now, I'm not sure what kind of lives these two people can go on to have after the credits roll, but it delights me that these screenwriters (Mark Andrus and James L. Brooks) know their characters well enough to know the only way that Melvin Udall could ever tell Carol that he loves her.

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